Can You Be Charged at the State and Federal Level for the Same Crime?

Can You Be Charged at the State and Federal Level for the Same Crime?Many people believe that once you’ve been tried and either convicted or acquitted of a particular criminal charge, a government entity cannot prosecute you for the same crime from those same set of circumstances. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The reality is that it depends upon which government is pursuing a case against you. In Florida and the rest of the country, the state cannot retry you for the same crime if you are found to be innocent, but double jeopardy does not always prevent the federal government from pursuing the same charge, especially if you violated federal law.

Dual Sovereignty and Double Jeopardy Are Not the Same

A recent Supreme Court ruling determined that a case did not violate the Constitution wherein an Alabama man was charged by the federal government for the same crime he was already convicted of by his state government. This case upholds the concept of dual sovereignty and highlights how it impacts double jeopardy defense situations.

Understanding Double Jeopardy

Protection against double jeopardy is written into the Fifth Amendment. The language is clear about no individual being charged for the same instance of offense twice.  

Under state and federal law, double jeopardy is a procedural defense that prevents state prosecutors from charging a defendant for the same crime after they have been acquitted. The purpose of this concept is to protect defendants from abusive use of power and establish the finality of judgments, but its use can be complicated when there are multiple state jurisdictions involved. The double jeopardy rule does not apply to these situations because of the different jurisdictions, which qualify as separate sovereigns.

Dual Sovereignty

Under the dual-sovereignty doctrine, the Supreme Court has interpreted that state and federal governments are separate sovereigns. This concept has a significant impact on double jeopardy defense cases where a defendant has violated both federal and state laws. 

Under dual sovereignty, both the state and the federal government can charge a person for the same crime if it violated both state and federal laws. Further, the outcome of each case will have no bearing on whether the other can pursue charges.

How Dual Sovereignty Affects Double Jeopardy Cases

As you can see, double jeopardy and dual sovereignty are entirely different concepts. A state government cannot prosecute you a second time for the same crime after you were already acquitted. The same is true for federal offenses. Once you have been acquitted of a federal charge, the federal government cannot again pursue you for the same crime. 

Dual sovereignty makes it possible for each government entity to prosecute you for the same crime if it violates both state and federal law. An example would be if you illegally transported drugs into Florida. You would have violated state law and federal law because both entities have their own set of laws regarding such a crime. 

Remember that regardless of what jurisdiction has already prosecuted you for a crime or what the outcome was, you can still face a trial in the jurisdiction that did not charge you yet. If you receive convictions in both state and federal court, you will also receive punishments from both courts.

Protect Yourself Against Double Jeopardy Violations

If you find yourself facing charges in multiple states or jurisdictions, protecting your Fifth Amendment rights and protections against abusive prosecutorial tactics is critical. Speak with a top-ranking Orlando criminal defense attorney right away to prevent prosecutors from using your inexperience with the law to convince you to settle for promises of leniency. You need an attorney that is well practiced in Constitutional law who can aggressively defend your future and freedom.

With over 100 years of combined criminal defense experience, The Umansky Law Firm has successfully defended thousands of clients in the greater Orlando area. As former Florida state prosecutors and recognized members of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, they help position your defense strategy with the court so that you achieve the best outcome possible for your situation. Call (407) 228-3838 or contact us today for a free case evaluation.